This paper sheds light on an apparent paradox: managers continue to accept offers of international assignments even though they tend to view them as a risky career move. Based on a review of the literature and a survey of expatriate managers of 20 French and 30 German companies on assignment in 59 countries, the paper examines the nature of the expatriate career concept, the career development implications of international assignments, and the effectiveness of corporate expatriate career management and repatriation systems. Most of the research on the career implications of international assignments has been conducted using the US samples of expatriates. By exploring expatriate career issues in a cross‐national sample of French and German expatriates, this study seeks to yield new and significant insights into whether the emerging concept of boundaryless careers is beginning to take hold in countries other than the US, and whether there are cross‐national differences in the nature of the expatriate career concept. The findings show that many expatriates are frustrated with how their companies manage their international assignments, especially the long‐range planning of their repatriation. However, there are clear differences between the French and German expatriates in terms of repatriation concerns. Despite widespread dissatisfaction in both groups, the German expatriates seem relatively nonchalant regarding their repatriation. This finding can be explained by the fact that the German expatriates are more willing to leave their companies upon return than their French counterparts, thus showing strong evidence of a “boundaryless career” orientation. An important finding is that companies that fail to take an integrated approach to international assignments and do not have effective international career development and repatriation systems, tend to end up with highly dissatisfied managers who, depending on their nationalities, may be quite willing to leave their companies upon repatriation.
Stahl, G.K. and Cerdin, J. (2004), "Global careers in French and German multinational corporations", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 23 No. 9, pp. 885-902. https://doi.org/10.1108/02621710410558486
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